Nov 24, 2012
Author’s note: Before reading any of my articles, please have a pen and paper out, or a blank notepad open on your computer. As you read, any thoughts or impressions that enter your mind, be it about the topic at hand or something completely different, write them down! This is one of the ways that we learn.
So, let’s have a talk about current Standard, for a moment. I’m not going to try to convince you of the power of Thragtusk, the dominance of Angel of Serenity, or the insane advantage of Sphinx’s Revelation. By now, I would hope that most of you already know that these cards exist and are either exploiting them to your advantage or figuring out ways to beat them. Six months ago we knew how to beat these cards (or cards like them) by using our under-costed and over-powered Clone effects, which have both rotated out of Standard.
Let’s take a step backwards, for the past year and a half we have been very spoiled by two cards that do similar things: Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph. These are two of the best clone cards that have ever been printed and were auto-includes in nearly every competitive deck. The reasoning was simple: you play a big fattie? Well then, I’m going to play my own big fattie for less mana. As a Delver player, I learned that one of the best ways to deal with a Thragtusk on turn 5 was to untap and then make two of my own with double Phantasmal Image.
We in the Magic community have a strange mindset we get into when analyzing cards after a rotation. We seem to think that if a card isn’t as good as it’s predecessor then it’s not worth playing at all. People suggested Unsummon, as Vapor Snag was leaving the format, and the world scoffed at them. “Vapor Snag is clearly better than Unsummon,” they would say, “Why would you ever play such a terrible card?”
The reason, of course, is that we are left with little to no choice in the matter. Of course Vapor Snag is better than Unsummon, but that doesn’t mean we just shouldn’t play Unsummon. What if I made the same argument a year ago when Delver (well, Illusions) was just starting to be a deck? “Why would you play Ponder, when Brainstorm is clearly so much better?” Hopefully you can see the ridiculousness in that statement. Brainstorm is not an option so we will use Ponder, another powerful card. The reason that argument wasn’t made is that Brainstorm is so far removed from our minds that we don’t even add it into the equation, while Vapor Snag just barely left.
Another card that seems bad because we are used to having much better options is Clone. Again, a similar argument could be made: “Why would you play Clone, when Phantasmal Image was a much more powerful card?” It’s because our hands are tied, there is little choice.
Before I continue, I want to you to take your paper and/or notepad, which you should have been writing in since this article started, and I want you to list five creatures you wouldn’t mind Cloning in Standard. Don’t read ahead until you’ve made your list!
Ok, here’s my list:
- Angel of Serenity
- Geist of Saint Traft
- Anything scary from the Reanimator deck (Griselbrand, Craterhoof, etc)
- Thundermaw Hellkite
Now take your list, and my list, and compare them, adding creatures until you have as many as you can think of.
What’s significant about this list? Well, aside from Geist of Saint Traft, Cloning one of these creatures is actually less expensive for you than it was for them. You can have the same effect and get the same power without needing to play any of the other cards in those decks. The other half of Clone is using it as removal, getting rid of those scary legendary creatures, so you don’t have to deal with them. Some will argue that, if you really want to Clone Thragtusk, then you might as well just be playing Thragtusks. This is true, except that with Clone I get to decide what it should be, based on what’s on the battlefield. It isn’t always a Thragtusk. It can be whatever I need it to be.
Now, think about Clone and Restoration Angel and you’ve really got something going on. You are able to continue to copy and make the best creatures that are on the battlefield at any given time. I’m not going to try to give you a bunch of scenarios, where Cloning a creature and then flickering it with Restoration Angel can get out of hand, but I hope your imagination can do it for you.
There is also a potential downside to Clone. If they are beating you with Planeswalkers or very small creatures, with UW Aggro or Zombies for example, then Clone is not as good. Even though I am a strong advocate for Clone, I’m not trying to say he needs to be an automatic four-of in every deck. I am very content to play a few in my sideboard, maybe one in the maindeck.
He’s also not a card that merits having an entire deck built around him. I believe the best Clone deck is one that supplements him into their already powerful strategy.
So, what about lists? I know people love lists, because I sure do! Let’s look at two:
This deck has had many names over the past few weeks, including UWR Tempo, UWR Midrange, UWR Geist, and even AmeriGeist. No matter what you want to call it, it’s still a very powerful deck with lots of removal, counterspells, and very fast creatures. This is the first deck I thought of when wanting Clone. I only added one into the maindeck, and two more into the sideboard, because I think that’s all you really need. While being able to Clone a creature is something that we want to do, we also need to be able to play our own creatures. Playing more than 3 Clones at any given time can lead to us drawing an opening hand of 3 Lands 2 Counterspells 2 Clones, and that could turn out disastrous. One Clone in the main, with two more in the side, allows us to have it when we need it, and not worry about it when we need something else.
“UWR Tempo by Julian O"
I am very pleased with this deck idea. Clone is good whether or not your opponent is playing creatures. You can copy a Snapcaster Mage for extra advantage or a Thundermaw Hellkite when you just need to take them out. In the later game, you could even copy a Snapcaster Mage and then a few turns later use Restoration Angel to turn your Clone into something more powerful. This is the deck I have been playing locally and I’ve been having some great success with it.
Another route is to look at the Bant Control decks that are seeing play and might be more powerful than UWR Tempo. You’ll notice we are playing two copies of Clone in the maindeck, here. This is because we have more creatures that we want to Clone of our own.
“Bant Control by Julian O"
I haven’t had the opportunity to test this deck as much as I have the UWR Tempo deck, but I still believe it is a very strong and consistent deck, and can easily perform very well against the current meta.
I really think this guy is the real deal and I think you’ll find lots of success by playing Clone in your Standard decks over the next couple of weeks. Let me know how it goes!